Man sues 5 KCPD officers for allegedly throwing him to ground and falsely imprisoning him
Court documents allege that Kansas City Police threw Mack Nelson facedown to the ground, held him against his will, and wrote false reports of the incident.
The scar on Mack Nelson’s face, he claims in a lawsuit, came from police.
In early August, he found himself hanging out at a gas station on Prospect Avenue when police fatally shot another man.
He and other bystanders were kept in the station while officers from the Kansas City Police Department and Missouri Highway Patrol documented the scene.
Then things went sideways with Nelson and some of the officers. By the police account, he’d been belligerent. By his account, and a lawsuit filed in his name, police “faceplanted” him on the pavement and left him with that facial scar, a head injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Now he’s suing five officers he blames for his injuries and whom he contends held him unlawfully in the immediate aftermath of one of their colleagues fatally shooting a man. His lawsuit also claims those officers falsified their official reports of the incident.
Nelson’s attorney, John Picerno, said video taken by a bystander shows the interaction supports Nelson’s version of what played out that day.
“Do you really believe that this is the first time these officers have ever falsified a police record in their entire career?” said Picerno. “You believe it all just happened right now? You believe this is … the first time that that particular officer has ever used physical force against a suspect or a citizen?”
Four of the five officers remain on active duty. The other officer is listed as a John Doe, so it is unclear whether they still work on the force. Picerno said that undercuts pledges by new KCPD Police Chief Stacey Graves promising reform.
In a video statement Chief Graves made about the deadly police beating of Tyre Nichols, Graves applauded Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis for quickly suspending and later terminating the officers involved. Graves said she met with her command force to stress a “culture of accountability” for police in Kansas City.
“This accountability brings a duty to intervene if officers witness excessive force or a violation of anyone’s constitutional or civil rights,” Graves said.
Picerno said her department hasn’t shown any accountability for what happened to his client.
“Don't believe what they say. Believe what they do,” he said. “Even in cases where they have video evidence, they are reluctant to discipline their own.”
When Nelson was free to go from the gas station after the police shooting, according to the lawsuit, he went outside to film the crime scene with his phone.
Nelson declined an interview about the lawsuit. But he told KCUR in November that he didn’t trust that the highway patrol had conducted a fair investigation because they did not question him or any of the witnesses inside the gas station.
“So I decided to go on Facebook Live and record that,” Nelson told KCUR.
“I walked around inside the perimeter for a good — I don't know — eight, nine minutes and, you know, describing it,” he said. “I guess the lady officer heard me and … demanded that I step back behind the tape, and I did exactly that.”
A police report of the incident said an officer asked Nelson to step outside of police tape multiple times. Nelson complied, the report states, but when officers walked away, he would step back into the crime scene.
The lawsuit tells a different story. It claims Nelson complied, moved to a part of the gas station parking lot not taped off by police, and continued recording the scene. When an officer asked him to leave, the lawsuit says, Nelson backed up and tried to go.
Another officer approached Nelson and attempted to arrest him, grabbing him from behind, knocking his phone from his hand and ultimately throwing him to the ground, the lawsuit alleges.
One police report claims Nelson “fell to the ground after jerking his arms away and attempting to twist his body away from P.O. Frazier.” Another claims Nelson was “pulled onto the ground.” Picerno said both statements are completely false.
KCPD officials said they don’t comment on pending litigation. The Jackson County Prosecutor's Office did not respond to a request for comment. The Kansas City Fraternal Order of Police could not be reached for comment.
Steve Young of the Kansas City Law Enforcement Accountability Project, or KC LEAP, was the bystander that recorded the interaction. Picerno said the video has played a vital role in the lawsuit. He said it proves that Nelson was not resisting and clearly shows an officer throwing him to the ground.
Nelson said he blacked out after the interaction, and he has little memory of what occurred afterward. Nelson said he sustained a deep cut on his head and possibly a concussion. An ambulance took him to a hospital, where he got stitches.
In the aftermath, Nelson faced criminal charges for resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and trespassing. The police report says he refused to leave the hospital and was belligerent toward hospital security.
Nelson pleaded guilty to the charges. He served time in jail and on probation. During that time, he lost the car he’d been living in.
Picerno said he motioned to set aside Nelson’s guilty plea, but the Kansas City Municipal prosecutor’s office opposed the motion, saying it did not have enough evidence to set aside Nelson’s guilty plea.
“The thin blue line exists and those municipal court prosecutors, in spite of having the two false police reports, in spite of having the video, refused to budge on the two charges that Mack was charged with and specifically the resisting arrest,” said Picerno.